Being driven by a planner in an electric car out to a modernised sewage works and a converted cotton mill that housed creative businesses showed me how much East German cities have changed since the Berlin Wall came down two decades ago. At the time Leipzig, Germany’s fourth largest city, lost 90% of its manufacturing jobs and 100,000 residents. The secret of its renaissance I discovered was an economic growth strategy that focussed resources on five clusters. The City won BMW’s new car plant by providing the site, and building a new motorway round the South of the City. Agreed in 2001, both opened five years later.
My guides round Leipzig gave me a mass of material, all in English, that showed how strategic planning can be made to work The key is not just a decentralised political system, or German concern for quality, but a stress on working together across sectors to apply technical knowhow.